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Ikebana 101 

Written By: Brookelynn Morris 


Flowers (1) 
branches, greenery. 

Containers (1) 

that complement the plant materials. 

Frogs (1) 

aka pin holders. "Frogs" are used in flower arranging to secure plants at the base. Pin 

frogs look like a little bed of nails: cage frogs support larger stems. 

Scissors (1) 

make sure that these are sharp. 

Water (1) 


Though we can't go into all the technical rules of ikebana here, (and I don't adhere to them 
myself), I do want to inspire you to look at flowers with a discerning eye, to find unusual 
lines in an arrangement, and to develop a sense of poetic importance. It is the beauty of a 
moment, or the perfection of a natural scene, that should be captured in ikebana, the same 
way those things could be captured in a haiku. 

Ikebana is known as the art of Japanese flower arranging, but the word literally means the 
arrangement of plant materials. This means the artist is not limited only to the showy and 
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colorful blooms of traditional Western florists. 

Monks from ancient times offered flowers at temples, and just as bonsai developed as a 
discipline, ikebana has also evolved. There are many styles, but the two most commonly 
seen are moribana and nageire. Moribana means "piled up," and this style is presented in 
low, shallow containers. Nageire arrangements, translated as "thrown in," are made in tall 
vases. One basic premise of ikebana is the idea that the arrangement symbolizes heaven, 
mankind, and earth, each of which is represented by different elements in the arrangement. 

Many rules govern the schools of ikebana, dictating the height of stems, types of containers, 
and even the angles at which stems can be placed. These rules are important, but even the 
novice can benefit from working with plants and flowers in the ikebana style. 

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Step 1 — Glossary of terms. 

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• Moribana: Meaning "piled up." 
These arrangements are designed 
in wide, shallow containers. There 
are two common styles of 
Moribana: upright and slanting. 

• Nagerie: Meaning "thrown in." 
Nagerie arrangements are made in 
tall, narrow vases. As with 
Moribana, there can be upright and 
slanting Nagerie. 

• Kenzan: The tool used to support 
stems inside the container. The 
pinholder tool is the most 
commonly used, and generally has 
a weighted base with dozens of 
sharp pins sticking upwards. The 
branch or stem is pressed into the 
kenzan, and the pins hold it in 
place. Traditionally kenzan are 
never secured to the base of the 
container with anything other than 
natural plant matter or weights, 
meaning no glue, no floral tape, no 

• Shin, Soe, and Hikae: In the 
Sogestu School of Ikebana, the 
rules upon which this article is 
loosely based, shin, soe, and hikae 
are the terms for the 3 main pieces 
of an arrangement. Shin is the 
longest branch, and represents 
heaven; soe is the medium branch 
and represents man; and hikae is 
the shortest and represents the 

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• Jushi: Jushi are any flowers or 
leaves that do not make up the 3 
main placements. They are meant 
to complement the shin, soe, and 
hikae. Add as many jushi as you 
like, but only in odd numbers. 

Step 2 — Gather or purchase plant materials. 

• Give the flowers a fresh cut 
underwater, at an angle. Remove 
any damaged leaves, and any that 
might get tangled under the water. 
Keep the flowers away from drafts, 
heaters, or direct sunlight until 
you're ready to use them. 

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Step 3 — Select a container. 

• Containers are secondary to the 
flowers, and they should 
complement the design without 
overpowering the complete image. 
You might want to have a few 
containers on hand and choose one 
after you've begun your design. 

Step 4 — Familiarize yourself with the frog. 

• The traditional type of frog used in modern ikebana is a pin holder. They're available in 
many different gauges and thicknesses. Practice cutting flower stems and setting them on 
the pins. Getting the flower to stand on the frog takes patience, but is easily learned. 
Cage-type frogs are useful for thicker branches and stems that are very wide, and they're 
a bit easier to work with. 

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Step 5 — Let the plants and flowers inspire your design. 

• Before you begin your arrangement, look at the flowers for inspiration. Their form might 
suggest a season, a landscape, or a haiku. Finding this direction and letting the form of the 
blossom or stem guide you is the key to learning ikebana. 

• Don't get caught up in the flowers themselves; rather, let your mind flow with the feelings 
that your branches and flowers evoke. Often the awkward bend in a branch is the most 
beautiful part, but you might have to remove leaves or offshoots to see it. Where Western 
flower arrangement emphasizes conventional beauty and bright colors, the art of ikebana 
requires you to look beyond the surface. 

Step 6 — Cut. 

• Once you've decided on a design, re-cut any flowers bluntly, instead of on the diagonal. 
This will help them sit in the frog. Cut branches about IV2" up from the bottom, for better 
water intake. 

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Step 7 — Arrange. 

• Set the branches and flowers into the frog, and carefully position them. Work slowly, and 
never lose sight of your theme. When a branch won't stand straight in the frog, you have to 
learn to change your approach. If you cut a stem too short, go back to the beginning and 
rework everything. Force yourself to stay true to your vision, but be adaptable. 

Step 8 — Finishing touches. 

• Complete your arrangement by adding water to the container and, if you like, covering the 
frog with leaves, more flowers, or mosses. 

This document was last generated on 2012-11-03 01:30:58 PM. 

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